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UCF Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition Team Advances to Nationals for the ‘Super Bowl’ of Cyber Competitions

A team of STEM students took first place in the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and won three specialty awards.
By: UCF News | March 27, 2024
Left to right: Caleb Sjostedt, Matthew McKeever, Noah Magill, Colton Knight, coach Tom Nedorost, Harrison Keating, Milo Gilad, Joseph Durand, Kelsey Hall, Andrew Terry, Caleb Wisley, Rodrigo Santos, Zachary Groome, assistant coach Martin Roberts.

With its talented students always in high demand by top employers, UCF’s Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition Team will aim next month to win its sixth national championship since 2014.

The team won the southeast regional title last weekend at Kennedy Space Center to advance to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, the “Super Bowl of cyber competitions,” April 25-27 in San Antonio.

“We send the best of our best to this competition,” says UCF Computer Science Professor Tom Nedorost, who coaches the team. “Many companies sign up to host these competitions so that they can pick top talent.”

The competition features student teams running a fictional company and defending it against a variety of cyber attacks similar to what a real-world company would face — all in a manner similar to the types of simulations corporations run to try to prevent attacks against their systems. Attacks during the competition come from industry professionals who seek out weaknesses and aim to extract personally identifiable information from the student teams’ companies.

The team’s captain, Harrison Keating, a computer science major, enrolled at UCF in order to participate in this competition.

“You have to defend against real attackers in real time to keep the business operational,” Keating says.

UCF students who compete are typically hired directly into mid-level positions as cyber analysts, consultants, penetration testers or vulnerability researchers with base salaries above $115,000 and generous signing/relocation bonuses, Nedorost says. Within two to three years, they move into advanced level positions and earn annual salaries exceeding $200,000.

With its unrivaled record nationally, UCF has won five national championships, most recently in 2021 and 2022, and finished runner-up three times.

In addition to winning first place at the regionals weekend, the UCF team was also recognized for three specialty awards: Best in Business, Best in Service and Best in Defense. The Best in Business award is given to the team that successfully completes the most business injects, or tasks, during the competition. The Best in Service award recognizes the team that finished the competition with the highest percentage of operational time for their network services. And the Best in Defense award is bestowed on the team that experiences the fewest disruptions to their network operations due to the cyberattacks.

According to, there are currently 572,392 unfilled cyber jobs in the United States. There are only enough cybersecurity professionals in the United States to fill 72% of the current need. Florida only has enough cybersecurity professionals to fill 74% of the current need.

The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition series is the largest and longest-running collegiate-level cyber competition in the U.S. A record number of 38 teams competed in the southeast region this year.

UCF’s cyber security team is one of many causes available for donors to support during annual UCF’s Day of Giving celebration on April 11.

Story from UCF Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition Team Advances to Nationals for the ‘Super Bowl’ of Cyber Competitions by Margot Winick for UCF Today